CLEVELAND - Donald Trump accepted the GOP presidential nomination Thursday night by pledging to be the “law and order candidate,” and “your voice” in Washington.
The one hour and 16 minute speech, the longest a presidential nominee has delivered since Bill Clinton's in 1996, brought to a close an improbable 2016 primary race and opened the battle against eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump covered a laundry list of policy problems, but offered no concrete solutions. In a departure from most of his previous speeches, the billionaire real estate investor and media personality largely stuck to the prepared remarks, which echoed the themes he has developed in over a year of campaigning for the nomination.
“The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents,” Trump said, “is that our plan will put America First. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo.”
Trump covered familiar ground, expounding on the need to renegotiate trade deals that he believes harm American workers, and his signature issue, cracking down on illegal immigration.
But he added new flourishes that had the delegates in the Quicken Loans Arena on their feet.
“My opponent asks her supporters to recite a three word loyalty pledge,” Trump said, referring to a pledge the Clinton campaign offered, but did not require, her supporters to sign early in her campaign for the Democratic nomination.
“It reads ‘I’m With Her,’” Trump said. “I choose to recite a different pledge. My pledge reads, 'I’m with you, the American people.'”
Trump also got a rousing response from delegates when he said: “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”
"I have seen first hand how the system is rigged against our citizens,” Trump said.
But he then used the point to make an appeal for Democratic votes, referencing Vermont Democrat Bernie Sanders, who Trump said “never had a chance” of winning the Democratic nomination because “it was rigged.”
“Millions of Democrats will join our movement,” Trump said, “because we are going to fix the system so it works fairly, and justly, for each and every American.”
Pete Snyder, the CEO of Disruptor Capital who served as manager of the Republican Party’s Virginia political efforts on behalf of Mitt Romney in 2012, told AMI Newswire the speech captured the mood of voters in the key swing state.
”Nearly seven out of 10 of Virginians think the country is heading in the wrong direction right now and more than half believe it is less safe,” Snyder said. “I’d say the subject matter of Trump's speech was more than germane.”
If “Donald tried to go all ‘Morning in America,’ I think it would have come across as phony and simply not reflective of where we are right now,” Snyder said. “You need a comeback before you get ‘Morning in America.’ And we aren't there yet.”
A Democratic observer, on the other hand, compared the speech with previous angry - and failed - economic populist appeals by William Jennings Bryant, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Al Gore, and others.
The speech was “all about Trump” and exposed the difficulties he will face in the general election, Paul Goldman, former Democratic Party of Virginia chairman and long-time political adviser to former Democratic Gov. Doug Wilderm, told AMI Newswire.
“Trump’s success is based on bad news,” Goldman said. “I can’t recall a political campaign at this level that has ever been successful based upon things getting worse.”
Economic populists "struggle to find a way to link their economic message to a unifying, positive, social message because, at its root, economic populism is very dark,” Goldman said, adding that Trump's tough-on-crime stance may also fall flat with voters.
“He tried Thursday night to make the law and order appeal, echoing Nixon in 1968,” Goldman said. “But those were much different times.”